This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” — Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s opponent John Wall and the Washington Wizards.
We can really only say two things about this game – The first item is that this will be an ugly contest as these two teams are not playing well right now. The 76ers rank 27th in offense (91.33 ppg.) and the Wiz are even worse at 89 ppg. (29th overall). A lot of that could have to do with the fact that these are two of the worst shooting teams in the NBA. The Sixers own a FG % of 42.8 which puts them in the bottom five in the League (26th) and Washington isn’t much better at 43.5% (22nd ranked).
Neither team can play a lick at the other end of the court either, as the Wiz are the 6th worst defensive team in the NBA (105 ppg.) and the Sixers sit just inside the bottom half of the League (14th @ 100 ppg.). Those in Philadunkia nation should watch for developing Wizards big man Andray Blatche to have a break out game vs. the Sixers weak interior defenders.
The second thing we can say about Tuesday night’s contest is that the real reason we’re tuning in tonight is to see John Wall. Now that’s keeping it real.
For a little more insight into the Wizards team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Rashad Mobley from truthaboutit.net to answer two questions on the Wizards from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on this John Wall’s squad from an insider’s perspective.
Philadunkia : We have seen the John Wall highlights, read the rave reviews and looked at his sick box scores, so we know how good he can be. But what areas would you like to see him improve upon early on this season?
Rashad Mobley @ truthaboutit.net : If you had asked me how good John Wall could be after preseason, I would have told you that he would average 20 and 9, and win the Rookie of the Year award hands down. Then after Game 1 in Orlando, I had my doubts like everyone else, when he went for 14 points and 9 assists, but looked extremely timid and without an outside shot, in a blowout loss. But as John Hollinger so eloquently pointed out the other day, Wall is most effective when he’s attacking and putting pressure on the defense, as opposed to being timid and over-thinking about his next move.
So I’d like to see Wall be a bit more decisive about his decisions, which is an unfair burden to put on a 20 year old, but he’s the number one pick, so its expected. As a point guard, its his job to get others involved, and to run the offense, but he also has to know when his team is lagging a bit behind and needs a boosts–something that is particularly important while Gilbert Arenas is out of the lineup
Wall also is going to have to improve his jumper, and again, he’s only a rookie, but he’s going to have to be consistent sooner rather than later. As teams catch on to his blinding speed and his knack for getting to the basket, they are going to start sagging off of him defensively. All Wall has to do is ask Rajon Rondo about how much of a liability a jumper-less point guard can be. Derek Fisher lived in the paint during the NBA Finals, because he had no fear of Rondo’s (j)umper. To avoid that type of treatment, Wall needs to make a concerted effort after practices (like he did here) so he can find a comfortable stroke.
Philadunkia : What are your thoughts on Arenas and what should the Wiz do with him?
Rashad Mobley @ truthaboutit.net : As far as his off court antics, I’m starting to think that Arenas is the Randy Moss of the NBA. There will be moments of absolute brilliance on the court, but to get to that, you may very well have to put up with some less-than-desirable behavior. That’s just the way it is (cue the Bruce Hornsby).
On the court, I initially thought Arenas should stay on with the Wizards to take pressure off of John Wall. A backcourt of Wall and Hinrich is perfectly serviceable, but it doesn’t put the fear of God in any opponents. After all, Wall is a rookie, and Hinrich is an average point guard with a hot and cold jump shot. But Arenas, even with his antics and frequent injuries, is still a legitimate threat to score 30 points on any night. He can achieve that 30 point milestone from beyond the three-point arc, he can make a living on the foul line, or he can just nail the mid-range jumper all night long. That versatility alone would make Wall’s rookie year a hell of a lot easier.
But after watching the tepid play of Wizards frontcourt (Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Yi Jianlian) Arenas is no longer a luxury who can take pressure off of Wall, he’s a necessity. The Wizards need Arenas to score 20-25 points just to keep them in contention on a nightly basis, and I’m sure that makes Wizards’ fans and coaches nervous. It is awfully hard to count on a former All-Star who hasn’t even played half a season in four years. But with Arenas, the Wizards can content for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Without him, the Wizards are guaranteed yet another spot in the lottery, and this year will be considered a rebuilding one.
But as David Aldridge mentioned in his column today, the rumor of Arenas to Orlando just will not go away.
Two Points of Analysis from Rashad Mobley @ truthaboutit.net :
1) Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee have been disappointing in two games, and both this players seem primed for career years. Blatche averaged 22 points and 8 rebounds after the All-Star break last year, and seemingly proved that he was ready to be the main post player for the Wizards. McGee played with the USA team that played in the FIBA tournament this summer, and the hope was that some good habits had rubbed off on him during that time.
So far this year, Blatche is averaging just 12 points and 4.5 rebounds, and he looks like he’s regressed. The Wizards don’t have many low post threats, so when Blatche neither scores, nor rebounds, it tends to stick out like Gheorge Muresan in a crowd. McGee is averaging 7 points, 5 rebounds and a whopping 4 blocks, which sounds great. But he’s consistently out of position on defense (so much so that Coach Flip Saunders yelled at him repeatedly against Orlando), he picks up fouls in bunches, and he goes for any and every pump fake. When this team had Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood, it was no big deal for Blatche and McGee to have up and down games, because the veterans could clean up the mess. Now they are the veterans, and no one is here to clean up their mess, so that have to produce.
2) Last week in an NBA predictions column, SI’s Lee Jenkins wrote that Flip Saunders was on the hot seat because: After everything went embarrassingly wrong last season, the Wizards caught a break with Wall. Saunders does not have the luxury of bringing him along slowly.
Initially, I scoffed at such a statement because Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has been consistently saying that this a young team and he expects there to be growing pains. I could see Saunders being in the hot seat next season after Wall has a year of experience under his belt, but certainly not now.
But when I saw a seemingly unprepared Wizards team get blown out of the gym against Orlando, it raised a red flag for me. And then when Steve Kerr mentioned that Saunders is used to dealing with veteran teams (Minnesota, Detroit and the Wizards last year before the All-Star Break), it made me realize that maybe Saunders is under a bit of pressure. I wondered if he’ll have the patience to deal with a young, inconsistent roster led by a 20-year old rookie, or will he get exasperated and have a quick hook (a young players worst nightmare). From Eddie Jordan to Ed Tapscott, this Wizards franchise has seen quite enough of that exasperated look, and it’ll be a challenge for Saunders to remain upbeat and positive, no matter what is going on around him.
After last year’s disappointing season, Saunders said, “this isn’t what I signed up for”, and Wizards fans can only hope that depressing sentiment has been replaced with optimism.